My friend Nicky rings and suggests we meet for tea. We settle on Barnsley House, just outside Cirencester, in Gloucestershire. “It’s one of the loveliest places in England for tea at this time of year,” says Nicky, who just happens to live nearby. Barnsley House was once the private home of acclaimed English garden designer Rosemary Verey. She spent more than 40 years creating the perfect country garden, inspired by 16th- and 17th-century classical styles. Can there be a gardener in the land who hasn’t drooled over Rosemary Verey’s iconic Laburnum Walk, her beautiful temple and pool, her Potager or her Knot Garden? Verey died in 2001 and her honey-coloured home became a luxury hotel, bought by Calcot Health & Leisure in 2009, but her beloved garden is much as she left it. Nicky is right. It really is one of the loveliest places in England for tea at this time of year.

Before tea we naturally make a tour of the gardens. We start with the Potager, Verey’s ornamental kitchen garden where herbs and flowers (edible and otherwise) flourish among the vegetables; box balls form a protective ring around single giant cabbage; tiny unripened strawberries creep shyly onto the path. The hotel uses the produce in its kitchen, though the bulk of its organic fruit and veg is grown in a neighbouring field.

Next we stroll down the famous Laburnum Walk. It’s not in flower (the image above was taken by the hotel earlier in the year), but we are charmed by its sleepy, dappled beauty. We keep expecting to see other guests – after all, the car park is full and the restaurant is buzzing – but we seem to have the garden to ourselves.

We take photographs at the temple and finish at the Knot Garden where the waves of billowing box are cut to perfection. Wistfully we wonder whether we could recreate the scene in our own gardens. But no, of course we couldn’t. These gardens clearly take a lot of hard work, overseen by Head Gardener Richard Gatenby who worked for Rosemary Verey.

Time for tea on the terrace. There are three afternoon teas on offer – Classic, Barnsley in Bloom and Barnsley House Champagne (you can have just scones and jam or sandwiches if you prefer) and 10 different types of tea. Nicky and I both opt for the Classic, which comes beautifully presented on a white three-tier cake stand. Like naughty children, we start with the scones, laden with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and move onto the cake, leaving no room for the sensible cucumber sandwiches. The bill comes to £18 each – half the price of a London tea and with much prettier views.

But we’re not quite done. Just opposite Barnsley House is The Village Pub, a pretty Cotswolds stone gastro pub, owned by the same company as Barnsley House. The pub is presided over by the dashing Zoltan, who welcomes us as long-lost friends and suggests a glass of champagne. How could we refuse?

Further information, and